The parking fee's too low

City streets are being rented out for a pittance


EDITORIAL The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is reviewing its policy on neighborhood parking, which is a positive step: The current system has been in place for more than 30 years and has become an unwieldy mess. But the agency needs to do more than just aggregate districts and set uniform rules; it needs to adjust the concept of preferential parking, meters, and prices to reflect the reality that San Francisco can't afford (and shouldn't promote) free parking.

Since 1976, the city has issued permits allowing residents of certain neighborhoods to park for as long as 72 hours on streets that otherwise offer only two-hour parking. The idea was to keep out-of-town commuters from parking near, say, a BART line and leaving their cars all day. The zones also protect neighborhood privileges near busy shopping districts and employment centers.

The zones are designated only when a majority of property owners request it. The fees for the permits are set at $104 a year.

The Examiner reported Aug. 13 that the system is in line for "a major overhaul." And the first thing the MTA needs to do is look at the price.

Renting a garage in most city neighborhoods runs close to $300 a month. Paid parking in even outlying areas can be as much as $10 a day. A Muni fast pass costs $74 a month.

But the neighborhood parking permits in effect give a piece of the city's streets — public property — to some residents for $8.60 a month, or about 28 cents a day. At a time when Muni can't afford to keep its buses rolling, that's ridiculous.

Easy, cheap on-street parking encourages more residents to buy cars, which is in direct contrast to official city policy. It's true that the permits also allow people to leave their cars behind and take transit to work — but the cost is so low that the rest of the city's residents, particularly the lower-income people who pay for Muni rides, are subsidizing car owners.

If the MTA could double the annual fee, it would bring in an additional $6.5 million a year, which could be dedicated to improving Muni. And at $208 a year, the permits would still be an phenomenal bargain. Car owners have been saving money for years (at great cost to the state) from the Schwarzenegger-era reduction in the Vehicle License Fee; paying some of that money back to the city wouldn't exactly be a brutal hardship.

It's not easy — the state mandates that local fees be set at the cost of administering the program. But if nothing else, the MTA ought to ask Sacramento for an exemption — and look for creative ways to link subsidized parking to supporting Muni. (Maybe the parking zones get all-day meters that residents can pay for in advance. Maybe create a parking benefit district. There are so many ways around this.)

The MTA screwed up badly the last time it tried to change neighborhood parking rules (in that case, meters), and any new rules will require extensive community outreach. But everyone needs to understand that free on-street parking in a crowded city with far too many cars is not some god-given right. The neighborhood parking program has a lot of benefits and we agree that it helps discourage car commuters from clogging residential streets. But the people who benefit from it ought to pay a fair fee.



Good luck on getting a legislative exemption to voter approved initiatives that limit fees to cost recovery and require voter approval for increasing them from Sacramento.

If you think that adding 50,000 new condos and upscale residents over the next 10 years with minimal parking and minimal investment in expanding transit to handle that--current proposals are little more than swapping that sinking feeling we all have about Muni to merely treading water to maintain current service levels--is going to result in everyone taking transit to work, then you've got another thing coming.

The MTA refuses to link parking fees in a neighborhood to improving transit. This is because the Muni is viewed as an infinite sink for every discretionary project that slows transit that comes down the pike at a developer or SFBC behest and an infinite source of slush cash by the Brown/Newsom/Lee/Kawa administration.

If we are going to lengths on one hand to speed up transit via the TEP, and we are approving transit slowing development and bicycle projects on the other hand, then we're treading water. Muni speeds must be viewed as a scarce and valuable public resource. Any discretionary project of any nature must be rejected unless it has no impact on transit speeds or makes the system run faster.

The Bicycle Plan EIR, for instance, revealed that only three segments caused transit delay of greater than six minutes that is deemed a significant impact under CEQA. But below that was a raft of delays running from just under 6 minutes down to 30 sec. Cumulatively those delays, which are being brought to bear on Muni as the bicycle network gets built out, will most likely consume all gains made by the TEP. This means that cycling will be no safer because transit will be slower and more San Franciscans will opt for car over transit and bike.

Progressives lose because they hold San Franciscans not like them in contempt, and instead of lowering the barriers to good behavior, they punish bad conduct. That is not politically sustainable and goes a long way to explaining why progressives are losing more and more elections and are down to less than a handful of elected officials.

Posted by marcos on Aug. 15, 2012 @ 6:26 am

"Progressives lose because they hold San Franciscans not like them in contempt, and instead of lowering the barriers to good behavior, they punish bad conduct."

Just ask Christina Olague.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 15, 2012 @ 10:21 am

Or if you were just rambling. Concision is a true virtue these days. However, your point about bicycle infrastructure making biking less safe because it makes MUNI slower and encourages driving seems a bit misguided. I think some of your other rambling mentioned that investment in MUNI is considered a "sink," and that the system fails to improve regardless of funding increases. If this is the case, then the best chance to get people out of their cars is to put them on bicycles, not MUNI's. And it's been proven that the best way to increase bicycle ridership is to build more bicycle infrastructure.

Posted by Buddhaonabike on Aug. 15, 2012 @ 10:32 am

So sorry if your little brain can't handle more than a TV commercial worth of prose. The world is complicated.

Running a transit system is not rocket science, the problem was solved a century ago. We need to do that because most people will never ride a bike, especially in San Francisco with hills and wind no matter how much infrastructure we put in. That delightful "state of the art" 8th Street bike lane has become a bus and car lane, for example.

Most people most of the time will either drive or take transit at most points in their lives. Problems are solved in politics by addressing the problems faced most of the time by most people, not catering to minorities and giving them extra at the expense of the majority.

If we are being asked to make sacrifices to implement the Transportation Effectiveness Project to speed up Muni which is what people say that they want, then we'd better take care to guard transit speed as a scarce public resource.

Investment in Muni is a sink because it is run by corrupt politicians and progressives care more about nonprofit social services for a few tens of thousands of poor folks than they do about providing the most to the most. Since we're not abject poor, we're automatically rich by their definition.

Bike policy is corrupt because that public function has been outsourced to an unaccountable private corporation.

When we combine the two, we get hastily thought out and trendy bike policies that, again, only benefit a few at the expense of the many married to a dysfunctional transit system. The SFBC continues to get paid, the MTA of course continues to get paid, yet San Franciscans, cyclists and transit riders all continue to suffer.

Maybe you can go to the East Bay and purchase a gun to "put them on bicycles." Sure beats the tough political work required to make transportation work in San Francisco.

Posted by marcos on Aug. 15, 2012 @ 10:47 am

Pricing a public space in order to regulate it would always result to people abusing it and having more and more people becoming free-riders. I have learned this in one of my courses in college, economics. Thus, pricing would be the determinant that would regulate usage of public spaces. Especially if there is a demand, then to regulate the usage of such would be to adjust the price in order to taper off the demand. This has happened to the area where my friend’s BMW service centre was located. Because a lot of people use the street parking that charges very cheap rates, the local area authorities then decided to increase the parking for longer term so that other people would get the chance to use the space rather than those who hog it. The local government even earned some revenue out of this and use the money to improve the security of the streets.

Posted by Peter Mould on Jun. 10, 2013 @ 12:37 am

This is some of the poorest writing I've read from a journalist in a long time. This is an absolutely awful use of language. For shame the use of an apostrophe in the title among other glaring mistakes.

Sure, charge more money for parking and use it for other Civics improvements. Just because you have a permit doesn't mean you can find a place to park.

I can't believe you get paid for this.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 15, 2012 @ 8:01 am

FYI, the title can be parsed out as "The [neighborhood permit] parking fee is too low." The contraction is to establish a more convivial, daresay nostalgic tone to the editorial -- the SFBG is no NYT, after all.

I do agree that adequate copy-editing has gone the way of the dodo, especially as deadlines are tightened in the face of ever-easier web publishing abilities (no to mention short attention spans regarding news events).

Posted by Guest on Aug. 15, 2012 @ 8:41 am

You must have quit reading Rachel Gordon about the same time I did then.

lillipublicans©, often impostered, less frequently equaled.

Posted by lillipublicans© on Aug. 15, 2012 @ 9:29 am

FEE + IS = Fee's It's called a contraction.
Parking fees are too low.
Increased fees would be used to support MUNI operations.
Having a permit means that you can stay parked all day when you take the bus to work. Otherwise, you'd have to find an unpermitted area, or drive your car to work. If you work in downtown SF, I can't imagine that you would find lot parking for less than $300 a month.
There is definitely an advantage to having a permit, if you insist on owning a car.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 16, 2012 @ 1:12 pm

Yep! those fees are way too low....Hey you poor people your paying way too little to park in your hood. Hey you guys in the Mission and SoMa get with it, just because your living in a building that was built at the turn of the century without off street parking shouldn't let you off the hook....your progressive reformers can always be counted on to make sure your rents go up, your parking meter fees go up, your taxes go up, your muni fare's go up, Weeeeeeee .....I'm getting a nose bleed at this altitude. Let'er rip guys, how about $500 a year for that permit !!!!!

Remember always vote progressive....they are for the little guy.....!!!!.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 15, 2012 @ 10:43 am

I own a car. I admit it. I need it to go efficiently to places that I cannot reasonably access by public transportation (usually outside of SF). I need it when time is of the essence (be across town in 15 minutes). I need it when transporting large, heavy objects. I need it to take my dog to the vet. Other than that, I walk. If it is too far to walk, I take MUNI.

That being said, I hate the lack of off street parking available in the City and the City's stance of minimal or no parking in new developments. I sometimes don't use my car for weeks on end but, until I broke down and rented a garage 4 blocks from where I live, I often had to move it multiple times per week. Sometimes I would spend upwards of 45 minutes looking for a spot. Many times I just said, well, I have to move it anyway so why not drive where I need to go and hope for the best when it is time to park it upon my return.

If you want to encourage people to use alternate methods of transportation then it needs to be easier to leave the car behind than move it because of parking restrictions.

Posted by roflynn on Aug. 15, 2012 @ 3:17 pm

Really? parking fees too low? How about riding bikes is too free in this town? Why do cars have to pay for bike lines, but bikes give nothing?? I say we start charging bike riders to have a permit to drive a bike and a permit to drive their bikes in our streets... Japan sure does a hell of a good job with that!! I can't stand bike riders thinking that they have a right to the lane... really?? I pay for it every year, do you?? no, they pay absolutely nothing... better leave cars a break and start focusing on charging bikes. They will have the rights they deserve, and get safer streets for them and for the rest of us.
Enough said.

Posted by Christina on Aug. 15, 2012 @ 8:04 pm

Really? parking fees too low? How about riding bikes is too free in this town? Why do cars have to pay for bike lines, but bikes give nothing?? I say we start charging bike riders to have a permit to drive a bike and a permit to drive their bikes in our streets... Japan sure does a hell of a good job with that!! I can't stand bike riders thinking that they have a right to the lane... really?? I pay for it every year, do you?? no, they pay absolutely nothing... better leave cars a break and start focusing on charging bikes. They will have the rights they deserve, and get safer streets for them and for the rest of us.
Enough said.

Posted by Christina on Aug. 15, 2012 @ 8:05 pm

If you feel there is a problem with Residential Parking Permits sign a petition to address the problem in Sacramento. That is where the matter should be resolved.

Posted by Guest: on Aug. 15, 2012 @ 8:20 pm

"Muni can't afford to keep its buses rolling?"

Excuse me but what does that have to do with RPP parking? Motorists who park cars in the neighborhoods where they live, and work DID NOT CAUSE MUNI's budget crises.

1. Should we blame motorists because 1 out of 3 public employees make over $100,000 a year, 20% more than the private sector pay.

2. Should we blame motorists public retirees who have retired and are earning pensions are receiving higher pay than non-government residents who are currently in the workforce.

3. Why are motorists being used to prop up the 1.6 Billion Dollar Central Subway Boondoggle?

Motorists pay vehicle license fees, RPP permit fees, tollway and gasoline taxes to pay for and maintain the roads.

The MUNI cant keep the busses rolling because they OVERSPEND on Salaries and Projects that they cannot afford.

Solution: Break up the SFMTA by putting a charter Amendment on the Ballot. Fire the SFMTA and put them under the control of the Board of Supervisors.

Posted by Break up the SFMTA by Ballot on Aug. 16, 2012 @ 1:13 pm

Besides the fact that I need my truck for work (hard to run a landscaping business on bicycles) I would argue that no one is rushing out to get a car just because an SF residential parking permit is only $100. What about all additional costs of street parking not mentioned in the article?

1. You can legally park your car in the same spot for 72 hours (if if's not street cleaning day/week) but the city can post an 'special event' notice which only needs 24 hours before they tow your car. cost: $400 - $500 or more

2. My car has had windows broken, locks punched out, planter boxes thrown on the hood and once someone just backed into it, completely smashed in the drivers' side and left no note. cost: Insurance deductible

3. Day to day dings and dents from people opening doors into your car and hitting it when they park, etc. cost: car's value decreases

4. Tickets: Street cleaning, wheels not curbed, residential sticker not in the right place, bumper an inch in the red or the crosswalk, etc. cost: $55 - $105 each

Sounds like people with the garages are getting off without paying enough - perhaps there could be a garage fee - especially if you consider the fact that it is impossible to park in the sunset or richmond neighborhoods (unless you have a smart car) because of all the driveway cutouts.

Also, I would take Muni more often if it wasn't faster just to walk to your destination.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 18, 2012 @ 6:58 am

Seems to me that Tim Redmond thinks that just paying outrageous rents to live in The City doesn't mean that people should also be allowed to park in front of their homes for free, they should have to pay even more than they might be already. I can somewhat understand the logic but he seems to think that having a car or not is just a matter of personal choice. For me it's a necessity, I ride a bike more than most bike riding San Franciscians but how else am I supposed to move 800 pounds of tools and materials across the City? Horse drawn cart? I'd love to have one, but it would be even more expensive than owning a car.
I already pay apartment rent, sales taxes, vehicle fees, insurance, some of the highest gas prices in the U.S., in addition to parking meters, parking tickets, AND $100 a year to park near my own house (which I don't own). I'd really like to not have a car, but it's a tool for me and I can't make a living without it. If the neighborhood parking fee was $200 would it force me to leave the City? Probably not, but all of the expenses keep adding up and every year it gets more difficult to hang on in this town.
Whenever the City has a budget crisis there is a certain group of people that seem to think making it more difficult and expensive to drive a vehicle is the answer. If you can carry you work with you in a laptop bag, maybe owning a car is optional, but when your work fills an entire pick-up truck bed, it's not.

Posted by Guest Mike on Sep. 30, 2012 @ 3:32 pm

The public transportation and the vehicle parking are two very important things. Public transportation quite necessary for the public transit. People prefers the bus and train services to travel normally and these are main mode of transportation.
Similarly, vehicle parking is also an important responsibility. Proper parking of vehicle need to be done in proper and secured way to avoid any chance of incidents. Bus parking also done in bus parking areas or the bus stands. The parking fee also has to be paid by the vehicle owner and if the parking fee is less then it will be great. airporter shuttle ventura

Posted by Ryan Hinds on May. 18, 2013 @ 7:41 am